Duchess of Sussex, others on SXSW panel discuss issues affecting women and mothers


AUSTIN, Texas — A panel featuring Meghan the Duchess of Sussex came together on International Women’s Day to discuss how women and mothers are portrayed in traditional media and across social media, among other issues.

The panel was part of the annual SXSW (South by Southwest) being held through March 16 in Austin, Texas, and also included actor, model and author Brooke Shields, journalist Katie Couric and sociologist Nancy Wang Yuen.

SXSW showcases music, film and interactive media.

Meghan — responding to a report on how mothers are portrayed in the media — said the report found that working mothers are paid 62 cents to the dollar to what working fathers are paid.

The report was funded by the Archewell Foundation, a non-profit created by Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

“There’s a lot of work to be done in supporting women and moms,” she said. “It’s almost feeling punitive at a certain point when you‘re a mom and you’re juggling so much and caring so much and you want to be supported in the best way possible.”

Yuen added that policymakers — not working mothers — are determining policy that affects women and moms.

“We know that if they’re not actually having contact with folks. They’re deriving their ideas from television, from film, just subconsciously,” she said. “You know that’s not real, but that’s what you’re seeing. You’re seeing ‘Oh hey, everything’s great. Working moms, they’re just mostly at home, and men are the breadwinners.’”

“When women’s rights advance, that advances society,” Yuen added. “When women are working and getting equal share, they’re making money. They’re actually contributing to the economy.”

The panel also discussed the sometimes negative effect social media is having on women and girls.

Meghan said she experienced online “bullying and abuse” when pregnant with her two children and immediately after they were born.

“I keep my distance from it right now just for my own well-being,” she said. “You really wrap your head around why people would be so hateful. It’s not catty. It’s cruel.”

The issue of women being treated differently from men as they age also was discussed by Couric and Shields. Shields, 58, said Hollywood doesn’t “know what to do with” women actors as they get older.

“At 58, you’re too old to be the ingenue, but you’re not quite the granny yet,” she said. “Find and ferret out the filmmakers who appreciate a woman over 40 … appreciate the life experience, the ‘we’ve raised the children, we’ve had the families, we’ve had businesses, we’ve had professional lives, we’ve left them, we’ve gone back to them.’ ”


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